Thursday 30 May 2013

Guest Post ------ Riding for the Disabled ----Guest Post

J is a friend of E's and they met through Riding for the Disabled (RDA). Even though J has very mild CP, her more pressing difficulties are in social, developmental and behavioural aspects. I wanted her to participate in something that not only helps develop her physicality, but her sense of self.

In school and in other areas of life, J comes last in pretty much everything and she is very much aware of this. I really believed that RDA would help counter this.  I knew of RDA, because my mother was a paediatric physiotherapist, who used to extol its virtues for children with ASL.   I also used to volunteer with RDA before I had J, so I was well aware of the benefits this could bring to a young person.

J loves her weekly riding session. She loves the horses and the actual riding.  It gives her such joy and confidence.  I wish they could provide lessons every day! 

  J's RDA lessons cost £6 per half hour session, but this may vary depending on each RDA group. 

RDA is available to all kinds of disabilities, from CP through to children with autism.   To apply please refer to the RDA website, but note you will also need a letter from your doctor stating how/why your child will benefit from RDA.

Unfortunately, they do tend to have waiting lists as they are very much dependent on volunteers.  The volunteers are fantastic, coming in all ages and from all walks of life. They have a training schedule, where the experience instructors teach volunteers on various areas, such as the best way to lead a RDA horse and the best way to walk alongside the horse/child.  RDA is always on the lookout for volunteers as this directly affects the number of children who can benefit from RDA.

Tuesday 28 May 2013

Planning for Transition – Questions, Questions, Questions

So with meetings lined up with three high schools, I needed to turn my vision of inclusion into something to drive discussion and decision making.   I like structure and colour so used my mind mapping software to map out all the things that I need to know about,

I shared this with the educational psychologist who would be accompanying me on these visits.  I think it’s important to be open and up front about what you want and I have learned to trust and rely on the ed psych.

From this he prepared a discussion list to be shared with the schools prior to the visit.  I reviewed it and made small amendments before it was sent.  To be honest it was helpful to have someone to put it into a summary as even though  I work in a school I found it daunting.

So now some questions.  Have you gone through this or other stage transition?  What questions would you ask?  Is there any improvements you could suggest to me?

Saturday 25 May 2013

Planning for Transition - Creating the Vision

There are a number of factors that will drive this process but a key fundamental is time.  Give yourself as much as possible and try to avoid rushing any step.

It is helpful to have a starting vision of what you want as a final outcome.  Fundamentally this will be the child’s picture but your input, guidance and development is vital.  I also found it really helpful to share this with professionals, family and friends and used their input to help create what’s right for your child.

Creating the Vision

For the transition to primary, we used a person centred planning approach.  This was facilitated by the educational home visiting team and was great for helping to articulate what we wanted school to look like.   

Person centred planning does what it says on the tin and puts the individual at the centre of the process.  Using input from the individual, their family and others involved in their care and development, either a pathway to the future or a map of how the present was reached is created.   You do need a facilitator and someone to record the outcomes.  Here and here are a couple of links that explain the process in more  detail.

It’s amazing how well the process can work and incorporate the views of everyone.  E was still at nursery when we did it but managed to give her input.  She drew what school meant to her and asked her older cousin and a friend already in P2 to help her with it.  

It’s important that you harness the skills of everyone in creating this vision.  Not only will they all be involved with the implementation of your vision, but they bring expertise and experience that may be outside your own current knowledge.  Someone described the inclusion as three legged stool with education, therapy and home being the legs.  All the legs need to be in balance for inclusion to work.

That vision  is still used to drive the discussions at school review meetings today.  The focus is less on individual attributes and more on the broader headings from the plan such as   
friendships, learning and skills. 

Tuesday 21 May 2013


As I’m sure many of you are aware, most local authorities offer swimming classes specifically for those with additional support needs.  While this may stray away from the ethos of inclusion, it can be the only way that swimming is possible for some and a stepping stone for others.  As with many of these activities, they cover a range of support needs and the level of support given varies with the age and needs of the child.  I am unsure if there is a specific qualification for teachers, but my experience of the empathy and awareness shown would indicate a level of training.

If anyone has not already investigated this option and would like to know more about specific classes in their area then please leave a comment below.  I have gathered details / contacts for a few councils and happy to share these and any others I get.

Now we had a specific problem in swimming, if you can’t hold your head up consistently on dry land how do you do it in water.  So how do you get to do the swimming you enjoy?  Well up until recently, it involved E being held all the time she is in the water.  This was fine but didn’t really work in terms of independence, water confidence and best positioning.  Trying to find flotation aids was not easy.

After another regular trawl of the internet, I came across the PFD-A.  It’s basically a buoyancy aid with an integrated head float. 

Our device was kindly funded by the family of the swim instructor selling tablet at Rosslyn Chapel.  It was incredibly successful with E pushing her instructor away within seconds of getting in the water and lessons are now focused on developing strokes for independent swimming.

Now for the technical part:   All swimming is done on your back as it cannot support swimming on your front.  To get it on and off is a two person job but may be easier if you use a changing table.  They are made in Canada and need to be personally imported (incurring import tax).  They come in a variety of sizes with plenty of growing room and I found contact with the suppliers really helpful.